Photos and Report: Eight Global Vigils For the Closure of Guantánamo on May 1, 2024

2.5.24

Photos from the the monthly coordinated vigils for the closure of Guantánamo on May 1, 2024. Clockwise from top L: Outside the White House in Washington, D.C., in New York City, in London, and in Cobleskill, NY.

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With Gaza, understandably, dominating the news, as Israel’s genocide continues, and peaceful pro-Palestinian protestors at campuses across the US are being violently assaulted by police on behalf of their universities’ administrators, it’s a tribute to the tenacity of human rights campaigners at five locations across the US — and in London and Brussels — that, on Wednesday, they came out onto the streets to also try to remind people of the ongoing existence of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, and, in particular, the plight of the 16 men (out of 30 still held in total), who have long been approved for release but are still held.

Coordinated monthly vigils for the closure of Guantánamo have been taking place across the US and around the world on the first Wednesday of every month since I began organizing them last February, and on Wednesday, May 1, vigils took place in Washington, D.C., New York, London, Brussels, Cobleskill, NY, Detroit and Los Angeles.

San Francisco didn’t hold a vigil this month, but coordinator Gavrilah Wells took photos at two events at the weekend, and campaigners in Mexico City were also unable to take part, although Natalia Rivera Scott arranged instead for two former prisoners to take photos with posters calling for the prison’s closure.

The Washington, D.C. vigil outside the White House on May 1, 2024. As Helen Schietinger of Witness Against Torture explained, “Steve Lane brought handouts, and he, Judith Kelly and I witnessed in front of the White House today. A beautiful day, so there were plenty of visitors at the White House fence. In peace and solidarity.”
The New York vigil on the steps of the Public Library on Fifth Avenue in New York City on May 1, 2024. As Debra Sweet, the national director of the World Can’t Wait explained, “Surprisingly, when protest is breaking out all over the city on the main campuses, and it’s May Day, we had the largest non-January vigil tonight — 20 of us in total, including Deirdre from Amnesty, RoseMarie from Pax Christi, Felton from Catholic Worker, Stephanie from WCW, and then all the rest were Grannies for Peace or ‘Raging Granny’ singers. Lots of tourists — people took all the flyers we had.” (Photo: Linda Novenski).
The UK Guantánamo Network’s London vigil outside the US Embassy in Nine Elms, London on May 1, 2024. As Andy Worthington explained, “Although many people weren’t able to attend, we made our presence felt outside the Embassy, where we hold vigils every six months as an alternative to Parliament Square. We like to joke that younger members of the Embassy staff watching us might, as a result, discover what Guantánamo is, and how alarming it is that it’s still open.” (Photo: Andy Worthington).
Campaigners in Brussels with the Comité Free.Assange.Belgium on May 1, 2024.
The vigil in Cobleskill, NY on May 1, 2024. Sue Spivack wrote, “Here we are, eight people in the middle of Cobleskill Village, representing Peacemakers of Schoharie County and standing in solidarity with everyone in all the places around the world calling out for the closure of Guantánamo, the release of the 16 cleared prisoners, and immediate equitable settling of the cases of the other 14 prisoners so GITMO prison can be closed down. During the hour we stood vigil, we received 17 honks or calls of support from passing autos and trucks and one pedestrian.”
The Detroit Amnesty vigil outside the Federal Building on Michigan Avenue in Detroit on May 1, 2024. It was apparently “a steaming hot day at the Federal Building, where the temperatures are always extreme”, according to Geraldine Grunow. Her husband Ken reported that there were “Just Three Musketeers, but some good supportive honks.”
Although there was no vigil in San Francisco on May 1, Gavrilah Wells took photos at two events at the weekend. Of the first event, she wrote, “I made it to the last two excellent panels at the Shaking the Foundations Conference (about surveillance and suppression) at Stanford University on Saturday and some of the remaining attendees joined in a photo action calling to Close Guantánamo. Former prisoner Mansoor Adayfi was their keynote speaker (via Zoom) but sadly I had a prior obligation and missed the morning keynote which I heard was incredibly inspiring, as he always is.”
Gavrilah Wells wrote, “On Sunday (April 28) some Bay Area members of the wonderful Drop LWOP Coalition joined in a photo action calling to Close Gitmo. Life Without the Possibility of Parole (LWOP) is another death sentence, and ending indefinite detention of the detainees at Guantánamo is a call that is very close to all of our hearts.”
Ahmed, a former Guantánamo prisoner, supports the monthly coordinated global vigils for the closure of Guantánamo on May 1, 2024.
Abdellatif, a former Guantánamo prisoner, supports the monthly coordinated global vigils for the closure of Guantánamo on May 1, 2024.

Another vigil on Wednesday took place without being physically recorded, as Jon Krampner held a solitary vigil during the lunch break outside the Downtown Los Angeles Federal Building. As he explained, “I went today in my traditional orange jumpsuit and black hood, brandishing my customary Amnesty International ‘Close Guantánamo’ sign. In the spirit of variety being the spice of life, though, I attached a sign to the AI sign announcing the premiere of the film ‘I Am Gitmo’ this weekend in Santa Monica. Because it was May Day, there was a fence in front of the Federal Building — apparently they were expecting a rowdy passel of protesters. I went and stood inside the fence — it’s shadier there. But a uniformed policeman — he wasn’t LAPD, must have been some sort of federal constabulary —smilingly asked me to stand outside of the fence. I engaged in a little discourse with him about the First Amendment. He smilingly said I could express my First Amendment rights outside of the fence. I could have made a federal case of it, so to speak, but I wasn’t sure how long he would continue to be the same smiling officer, so I went and stood outside the fence. Not one but two people took pictures of me. I gave them both my e-mail address, but when I got home, the promised e-mail with photo hadn’t arrived from either one. This is not the first time this has happened.”

Below are more photos from the vigils, and I hope you’ll be able to join us next month, when the vigils take place on Wednesday June 5. If there isn’t a vigil anywhere near you, please feel free to start your own, but do let me know if you do so, and don’t forget to send a photo.

Another photo from the New York vigil. Debra Sweet is on the right. (Photo: Linda Novenski).
Another photo from the New York vigil. (Photo: Linda Novenski).
At the London vigils, Lise Rossi of Amnesty International holds up the poster showing the 16 men still held at Guantánamo who have long been approved for release. (Photo: Andy Worthington).
The updated poster showing how long the 16 men approved for release have been held since those decisions were first taken. The shockingly long amount of time these men have been waiting to be freed is because the decisions taken to release them were purely administrative, meaning that no legal mechanism exists to compel the Biden administration to actually free them if, as is apparent, both President Biden and Antony Blinken, the Secretary of State, have no interest in prioritizing their release.
Andy Worthington and Lise Rossi at the London vigil.
Sara Birch at the London vigil, calling for former Guantánamo prisoner Ravil Mingazov to be reunited with his family in the UK, where they were granted asylum many years ago. Ravil was released from Guantánamo in January 2017, and sent to the United Arab Emirates, but promises that he would be helped to rebuild his life were betrayed, and he has been imprisoned ever since, almost incommunicado, and in dire conditions.

* * * * *

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer (of an ongoing photo-journalism project, ‘The State of London’), film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose music is available via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (see the ongoing photo campaign here) and the successful We Stand With Shaker campaign of 2014-15, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here, or you can watch it online here, via the production company Spectacle, for £2.50).

In 2017, Andy became very involved in housing issues. He is the narrator of the documentary film, ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, about the destruction of council estates, and the inspiring resistance of residents, he wrote a song ‘Grenfell’, in the aftermath of the entirely preventable fire in June 2017 that killed over 70 people, and, in 2018, he was part of the occupation of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford, to try to prevent its destruction — and that of 16 structurally sound council flats next door — by Lewisham Council and Peabody.

Since 2019, Andy has become increasingly involved in environmental activism, recognizing that climate change poses an unprecedented threat to life on earth, and that the window for change — requiring a severe reduction in the emission of all greenhouse gases, and the dismantling of our suicidal global capitalist system — is rapidly shrinking, as tipping points are reached that are occurring much quicker than even pessimistic climate scientists expected. You can read his articles about the climate crisis here.

To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, The Complete Guantánamo Files, the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

Please also consider joining the Close Guantánamo campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.

7 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Photos from, and my report about the eight vigils for the closure of Guantanamo that took place across the US and around the world yesterday, May 1, 2024 – in Washington, D.C., New York, London, Brussels, Cobleskill, NY, Detroit and Los Angeles. Vigils didn’t take place in San Francisco or Mexico City on Wednesday, but Gavrilah, in San Francisco, took photos at events at the weekend, and Natalia, in Mexico City, got two former prisoners involved in a photo project.

    The vigils were the latest in an ongoing series of monthly coordinated global vigils that began last February. They take place on the first Wednesday of every month, and the next date is June 5, when you’re welcome to join us, or to set up your own vigil if there isn’t one near you!

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Natalia Rivera Scott wrote:

    Thank you, Andy 🧡
    It’s always an honor to be part of this family.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Likewise, Natalia. I missed seeing you and Alli and your friends in these photos, but I was delighted by your initiative involving Abdellatif and Ahmed!

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Barbara Bendzunas wrote:

    How do we justify having this vile place still existing?

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    A very good question, Barbara. Sadly, Joe Biden and Antony Blinken don’t care about the men languishing at Guantanamo. All they seem to care about is arming a genocide and presiding over the violent suppression of First Amendment rights on US campuses.

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Mexico4Julian wrote:

    All over the world we demand the closure of Guantanamo!
    We are a big family of activists whose hearts are in this cause for justice, liberty and the lives of human beings who are illegally detained without charges or trial in the torture camp.
    #CloseGuantánamo 🧡

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Mexico4Julian, for sharing, and for your fine words about why we do what we do!

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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